chapter  15
‘Ooh, politics. You’re brave’. Politics in everyday talk: an analysis of three ‘non- political’ online spaces DAN IEL J A CK SON , RIC HARD SCULLION A ND
Pages 15

Civic culture requires a talkative electorate, where discussion is a way of making evident a sense of connection between citizens and the democratic process. Yet despite the apparent benefits of political talk (Dahlgren 2006; Crick 2000) evidence suggests that for many people political talk is limited, or avoided. In this chapter we consider the political component of what might be characterised as ‘everyday talk’ amongst citizens occurring in online spaces. Our focus is online because the Internet is considered a place providing ample opportunity for political engagement (Norris 2002) and offers a transparent window into some of the processes of political talk (we refer to online discussion as ‘talk’, even though we acknowledge that participants are actually typing). Unlike much previous research we do not consider websites that are explicitly presented as being for political discussion, instead we use both a quantitative and qualitative analysis of three popular, general interest, UK-based online discussion forums: HotUKDeals, Digitalspy and Mumsnet. These websites cover salient aspects of contemporary culture: consumption, media and family; and offer a broad representation of everyday topics of conversation. Together they claim over 1.5 million registered members and archive over 70 million individual posts from which we aim to provide a sense of the character of political talk within everyday conversations. Our findings shine a light on both the possibilities and barriers for civic and audience empowerment through participating in everyday talk online.